Disparity between boat and car accident penalties highlighted

Nicola Lewis, mother of Emily Lewis – the teenager tragically killed on a RIB ‘thrill ride’ in August 2020 – has criticised how offences involving boats are dealt with. She says there is a disparity between the charges being faced when incidents occur on the water as opposed to the roads.

Lewis says she will write to the home secretary, Suella Braverman, to raise her concerns.

This, reports The Guardian, comes after two men received suspended sentences over the 15-years-old’s death.

Emily Lewis suffered fatal injuries after the RIB she was riding on collided with a 4.5m buoy at 42mph in Southampton Water, with a number of other passengers left seriously injured.

Her family described the moment her life support system was turned off and criticised the skipper as a “coward” as he was given a suspended jail sentence in court on 17 March 2023.

Michael Lawrence, who was driving the boat, was found not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence but convicted of failing to maintain a proper lookout and to proceed at a safe speed.

Michael Howley, the owner of Seadogz (the company that ran the boat trips) was convicted of not operating the vessel safely.

They were sentenced at Winchester crown court to 18 weeks in custody suspended for two years, ordered to complete 125 hours of community service and pay £1,000 of court costs.

“It is still unknown exactly why you, Michael Lawrence, drove the Rib as you did. I am sure the accident was not caused by your deliberately driving at the buoy or aiming to go close and swerve away, instead what happened must have been the result of inattention or distraction,” said Judge Butcher.

“You have taken away from us being able to see Emily grow into the beautiful young lady, the amazing adult that she would have been. I will never forgive you for this,” said Nicola Lewis’ reading her impact statement.

“I go back to that day, all I can see is Emily’s blue lips and her saying to me that she cannot breathe. I was not able to hold her and comfort her because of my other injuries. I couldn’t help her and this haunts me daily.

“It is two and a half years and you have kept us in this hell, you could have taken responsibility for what happened that day but you have chosen not to. To me, you are just a coward, only thinking about yourself. You show no remorse.”

Outside court, Simon Lewis is reported as saying: “The suspended sentence is quite hard to accept. Neither Mr Lawrence nor Mr Howley have apologised for what happened on that fateful day. I found this to be highly disrespectful not only to the survivors of the collision, but also to Emily.”

Mark Ashley, defending Lawrence, says his client’s actions were “out of character . . . We are dealing with a good man who has made a mistake.”

Lawrence told the trial he had lost his vision momentarily before hitting the buoy.

Keely Harvey, representing Howley, says he “cared” about the safety of his passengers and “is highly remorseful, he is a man who will be forever affected by this.”

Lawrence was acquitted of manslaughter charges, in early Feb 2023. The vessel, operated by Seadogz, hit a 5-tonne buoy in Southampton Water. The Stormforce 950 RIB was recorded to travel at speeds of 47.8 knots, which is in excess of an expired speed limit of 40 knots.

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One response to “Disparity between boat and car accident penalties highlighted”

  1. Ronald Button says:

    Should be an appeal hearing for a stiffer sentence ……….. Skipper obviously not in control of the vessel, and speeding. Should be a minimum of 5yrs. If it were a road vehicle it would be driving with danger to the public/dangerous driving, loss of sight, so driving whilst unfit, driving without due care and attention and speeding!

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